Sophos makes cloud marketplaces channel-friendly with changes to cloud billings

The changes, which will see partners who sell through the cloud Exchanges receive back-end rebates and program credit for the first time, are part of a new initiative that establishes a new Sophos Cloud Security Provider cert in the company’s partner program.

Kendra Krause, vice president of global channel, Sophos

Security software vendor Sophos has announced the extension of its existing partner program to provide more support to partners using the public cloud. At its heart is changes to their channel compensation model which are designed to make the purchase of Sophos products in the AWS and Azure clouds channel-friendly.

“As Sophos expands our business, we are deepening our options to public cloud deployments, with a focus on Azure and AWS,” said Kendra Krause, vice president of global channel, Sophos. “A lot of the transactions in these clouds are through their marketplaces. These are increasingly growing as an opportunity. However, while some partners are all-in on the public cloud, some are not.”

A major reason for the reticence, Krause acknowledged, is that public clouds have not been on the same playing field as traditional BYOL [Bring Your Own License] sales, as those sales have not been captured by Sophos’ channel program, for the purposes of back-end rebates and channel tiering.

“We have worked closely with partners on this,” Krause said. “They told us that they wanted recognition of their sales into the marketplaces. They wanted to know we see that and recognize those billings for the partner program, and also provide a back-end rebate. Some partners still had customers buy through the marketplaces anyway. They still made consulting services off those opportunities, and sometimes installation services. But now they can receive the back-end rebates to make it even more worthwhile.”

The problem previously had been visibility. Krause explained that the issue was that while Sophos could see which customers were transacting in the marketplaces, they didn’t have the visibility to see which partners had referred them there.

“There were a lot of steps that needed to be done,” she said. “The key one was getting great visibility of information  from the cloud providers. That’s new, that they are now providing that information to us. They are work with us on this because they want to be channel friendly. We now ask the partners to tell us which customers are buying through the cloud, and we cross-reference it. This allows us to track the sales and know which partner is working on each.”

Krause said that the margin provided in the marketplace sales, which is provided as a back-end rebate, is designed to be the same as in the BYOL sales.

“We also count all the billings towards partner program attainment, and that’s related to the amount of marketing money we spend with various partners,” she added. “In addition, we give the partner in these sales a deal registration protection, in case they want to transition from transacting via marketplace to BYOL.”

Krause said that this type of program is unique in the market.

“What we were looking to solve was find a way to make the marketplaces channel friendly,” she said. “This is the first such program in security.”

The changes to cloud sales compensation accompany the establishing of a new Sophos Cloud Security Provider certification within Sophos’ existing partner program

“It’s not a parallel program, but an extension of our current one, which provides a way for partners to become specialized for public cloud and security,” Krause said.

The new Cloud Security Provider certification has two tiers. The Professional level is for partners who are focused on consulting and selling services. The Expert level is for those who are also have deployment services.

To qualify for the basis Professional level, Krause said a partner has to be familiar with the security needs of the public cloud.

“Many customers are confused how much Microsoft and AWS are securing their clouds,” she said. “It’s important for them to know that while the providers manage the security for their cloud infrastructures, the end users are expected to secure what they bring into the cloud. We have training and certification for partners around that portion.”

Partners at the Expert level receive enhanced lead sharing from Sophos.

Krause said that the number of partners who move to be certified at either level will be fairly small, at least at the moment, but expects that that will change.

“Today, I think the demand is limited,” she said. “Only a handful of our partners are doing cloud sales today. But every single day more and more ask about it. I see it as something every partner needs to get educated on. Many customers are transitioning part of their environment to the public cloud. We have to work together to make sure that it is secure.”

In a related announcement, Sophos also announced Sophos Server Protection is now available for Azure. When used with Sophos XG Firewall on Azure, Sophos Synchronized Security technology will coordinate defenses against cyber threats attacking multiple vectors, including VMs running in Azure.